Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Letter of Intent

At this stage in an adoption, we send a letter to our adoption agency stating that we would like to adopt a particular child.  If you are waiting for a healthy child, you are presented with a picture of a child and they ask if you would like to adopt this child.  For special needs, you research the children by their individual needs to see if they are a fit in your family.  Some needs can be simple, like a twitchy eye, and some needs can be more time consuming, like blindness. 

We have found that child.  So we sent in our letter of intent.  In it we describe why we want this child and how we think they will be a perfect fit in our family.  From here, it will go to the agency for review and then be forwarded to China.  Once they accept your letter, that child is listed as matched on online files.  Then the review of your information begins.  More waiting. 

In the case of a special needs child, the review process may be escalated.  It depends on what stage of the process you are in.  Our last child was special needs and we did not get on a fast track review.  I think that was because we were already in the regular review process.  This time, we have just begun.  Only time will tell. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bargaining: The fun way to shop in China

In China, they have a lot of stores.  We went to many malls.  The stores we liked the best were the ones that allowed bargaining.  Well, for my wife, it was an adventure.  I tended to stay away from it.  These stores tend to look like a flea market.  It is usually in a building and is sectioned off by what they sell.  Some things that they sell may not be a true item.  A lot of what we saw tended to be knockoffs or counterfeit.  For things like souvenirs, it was cheaper than department stores or specialty stores.

Bargaining is a process that can wear a person down.  My wife would walk up to something and usually it will not have a price.  Once you ask, they process has started.  Generally, they will ask you what you would like to pay for it or they will tell you.  But they price quoted is usually high.  Then it becomes like a tennis match.  She will lob a price over the net and it will be struck down with a counteroffer.  To gain traction, one could note imperfections that should devalue it.  They will usually scoff at that and tell you it is superior.  Another tactic is to walk away.  As you do, look over your shoulder.  That will make some nervous.  They will try to get you to walk back.

At this point, it is getting down to the final offer.  They will go on about how they are losing money or some other excuse to get you to pay the higher price.  My wife will throw in one last offer.  If they keep waffling, she will put it down and turn.  Sometimes, this is when they might give in or try one last counter.  Depending how close it is to her set number, she may accept.

When bargaining, once you start the dance, it is considered rude if you walk away after meeting the number that you both agree on.  If you are a hard bargainer, they respect that.  I think there is a point that people should not cross.  We witnessed others being rude and totally disrespectful to the clerks.  They may put the stuff down and say they will only pay this amount and not even try to bargain.  What is sad is that some actually will give in.  I'd just tell them to walk.  I guess it depends on how much they want to sell it and how much it costs them.

At the end, it is time to go back to the room and rest.  It will drain you.  I get tired just watching my wife do it.  I'd probably be a bad bargainer.  I would give in to quick or just walk away and not return.  When I walk through these shops, I try not to make eye contact.  Once you do, they start the process.  I just point to my wife and say she is looking.

Jiangxi Restaurant: Ordering Without a guide

Jiangxi is the province where our first adopted child from China is from.  On our trip there, we were green travellers.  We had never been out of the US except on a cruise.  Now we were in a country where very few speak English.  Our adventurous side had not developed.  The only trip that we made away from the hotel was to the local Wal-Mart. 

When hunger hit one day at the hotel, we had to figure out what to eat.  We were not with our group and there were no western eateries around the hotel.  The hotel was out of the question.  The prices were too high, even with the Dollar to Yuan value.  We decided to walk across the street to a Chinese restaurant. 

As we walked in, we were greeted warmly by the staff.  They showed us to a table and handed us menus.  The menu was in Mandarin and it had pictures.  The only problem was that we did not know if it was spicy or what kind of meat, etc.  Our server came over, but she did not know English.  We kept looking. 

Finally, Angie and I decide on rice.  We had seen a picture up front.  We told our server that we would like the rice.  She just smiled at us.  She did not comprehend what we were saying.  Our menu did not show the rice.  We tried in vain to get her to understand.  Then I got up and motioned her to the front.  I pointed to the picture and held up two fingers. 

Too bad we could not ask how big the dish was.  We had just ordered enough rice for about 4 to 6 people to eat.  The rice was really good.  We did not want to waste it.  We were able to get a take out container.  When it came time to pay, the price was really reasonable.  At this point, we came up on another issue, leave a tip or not.  In the end we did, but I don't know if it is required and hopefully it did not offend the server.  She had done a great job. 

We ate that rice for the rest of the time we were in Jaingxi.  It was good, but our refrigerator was not the best at keeping things cold.  At least we did not get sick, but it was okay.  I would not advise reheating rice in a microwave.  It does not taste good.

We did get to experience their meat dishes.  Our group went over one night for a group meal.  When you go over to China on an adoption or even a group sightseeing tour, this is the best way to eat.  Everyone shares in the cost, but you get to try many dishes compared to one dish.  When ordered, they will bring the dishes and set them on a lazy susan.  Each person at the table can turn the susan and try a little of each item.  I would say that the food was great.

(Above)Wal-Mart, (Below) Restaurant lit up. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Beijing Pandas: Chilling out on a hot day

I have to do this in two parts.  The first time we encountered pandas in China was during our 2009 adoption.  An earthquake had happened near Chengdu China.  Due the pandas getting freaked out, they moved some of them to the Beijing Zoo.

On the day we visited the zoo, it was a bright and sunny day.  We went up to the entrance and encountered an army of pandas.  To be more exact, it was an army of artistically decorated panda displays.  There were a bunch of regular sized pandas and many small ones.  Our guide told us that school children had decorated the pandas.

As we enter, the first exhibit is the pandas.  One set was in a Plexiglas cage.  They all looked tired and they were probably hot.  It is a different climate than they are use to.  On the other side is an outside area for them to play.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Every adoption, we have had to make decisions.  It is funny, because at those times you start seeing signs.  An example of this just happened to me.  We have a major decision to make about a child.  As I am trying to make this decision, or my part of it, I had an opportunity to see Hector and the Search for Happiness.  I had only seen one preview, but it looked like my kind of a movie.  The story revolves around a psychiatrist who finds he is unhappy with his life and decides to travel the world to see what makes people happy.  They first country he decides to visit is China.  He did not go to the province that the child is from, it's just that he went to China.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Guangzhou Modelling

Shamian Island is an island in Guangzhou Province.  This island is where the White Swan Hotel is.  It was the primary hotel that adoptive families usually go.  Unfortunately, it was closed for a major renovation on our third adoption.  The island also houses the clinic that we bring our adoptive children for their final checkup.

After leaving the clinic, we walked around the island to see some of the shops.  Due to the White Swan being closed, many of the shops were gone.  Only a few remained.

Continuing our tour of the area, we ran into a modelling shoot.  There were lights, people with cameras, racks of clothes and tall models.

Communist Anniversary: A Tense time was had by all

In 2009, China celebrated it's 60th anniversary of communist rule.  We were in Beijing right before the big celebration.  When you walked around you knew it.  They had police and military everywhere.  You even had checkpoints that you had to walk through, like at the Forbidden  City.  The government did not want anything to ruin the celebration.

On the corner, near our hotel, they had a military style vehicle with armed soldiers.  We walked by them, once or twice.  I did not dare to take their picture, but normal Chinese citizens would go right up to them and take there picture.  I did shoot one from our room, though.

One night, I woke up after hearing a loud rumbling.  At first, I thought it was a train.  So, I looked out the window, but could not see anything.  The streetlights were off.  Later that week, I realized what it was.  They had been preparing for a rehearsal run of the parade that was going to happen.  During this parade, they showcase military vehicles and missiles.  What I heard was probably one of the transports rolling down the road.  Since, the lights were off, I could not see them.  As far as we knew, there were no train stations near our hotel.

Monday, September 22, 2014

White Swan: The Adoption Hotel

The White Swan hotel is located on Shamian Island, Guangzhou.  Two of our three adoptions ended here.  It is one of the four star hotels that our agency booked us into.  When you do adopt a child and stay at this hotel, you get a special Barbie doll made for the hotel.

The interior of the hotel is very nice.  They have stores on the ground level, as well as restaurants.  Guests are treated to a buffet breakfast, but you have to pay for all other meals.  From what we could tell, it was expensive.  We could not partake in dinners.   The buffet in the morning was great.  They had everything you could think of.  In addition, they also had Chinese dishes.  It was all great, but I still tried to watch what I ate, due to the bathroom situation on the outside.

On the outside, they have a pool.  On our first trip, it was December.  Angie and I did not bring swimming clothes. The second adoption happened in the summer.  With the temperatures outside, we needed the pool.  That and we had three girls that wanted to swim.  The only problem was that they did not know how to swim.  Our adopted child was the first one in.  We were told she did not like pools, guess they forgot to tell her.  I had to jump in to rescue her.  Then, the next two fell into the same predicament.

At the pool, we met fellow adoptees.  They were either part of our group or part of other groups.  It was nice to meet and talk with the people.  We learned a little about our daughters disability and some other disabilities.

Shopping was okay.  They had some nice things, but what would you expect from a 4 star hotel, but 4 star prices.  The shops on the island fit the tourist shopping and a little inward from the island is a big shopping area.

The December adoption, the hotel was decked out in Christmas decorations.  It was neat.  We did not know that they celebrated the holiday, but it could have been for the tourists.

On our last trip, we did not stay at the White Swan.  The hotel closed down for a major renovation.  Although they were closed, the stores remained open.  Even some of them were getting ready to close due to lack of customers.  That store had a mob scene going on.  Angie saw this, dropped everything and ran to the store saying "It's a sale!".

One of the last acts we have done on each trip was to take a picture of our daughters at the Red Couch.  It is located on the second floor of the lobby.  The guides arrange a photographer to take the children's picture.  It is usually a task to get them to sit there.

Modern Toilet Restaurant: It's not the Hard Rock in Guangzhou

During our site seeing tour of Guangzhou, not accompanied by our guide, we stumbled upon a unique restaurant.  It is a theme that probably would not sell well in the West.  It is called the Modern Toilet Restaurant.  It's theme is in the name.  You go in the restaurant and your seat is a toilet.  Your table looks to be two sinks or maybe even toilets with things sitting in them.  On the sign, we saw that the food is served in mini toilets.  It was a Hot Pot style of food.  Urinals adorned the walls.  I thought it would be interesting to try, since we missed out on Hot Pot in Chengdu, but Angie would not eat there.   I believe I have a willing participant when we go back.  Michelle says she wants to eat there, so we can take a picture of her eating out a toilet to show her friends.

Rooster Guy: The Pied Piper of Guangzhou

In Guangzhou, there is a guy that dresses up in a rooster outfit.  When people give him money, he will give them candy.  All three times we visited, we saw him.  I believe it was the same person every time.  To get people's attention, he would blow on his horn.  Besides my pictures, you probably can look him up on the net.  I have seen other pictures that people have posted.

Leap of Faith: Taking a chance on a picture

When adopting internationally, you have to make a decision about whether you are going to accept a child or not.  They provide you with as much information as possible.  You sometimes get medical records, schedules to show how they are progressing, etc.  Sometimes, you just get a picture.  At this point, you have to decide, will we bring this child into our family.  We have been through this many times.  I would say we have not been disappointed with our decisions.

I am now at that point again.  The time is ticking on a file that we have locked.  We have to make a decision.  We have asked questions, but the chances they get answered are slim.  Either that, or they will not have the answer.  I know what my decision is and I just don't like to rush into the process.  This is what happens when you adopt.  Sometimes you have to wait years to make this decision and sometimes it happens in the beginning.  Once the decision is made, the paperwork will be sped up and funding will need to be ready.  It's like riding a roller coaster.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Chinese Food in China: Not like the stuff they serve at home

From our many travels to China, I would say I miss the food.  The meals were great.  I only wish we could have made every meal a Chinese Dish.  But, when you don't have a guide, it gets complicated ordering.  In Chengdu, we asked if the food was going to be spicy.  The woman looked at us and smiled as she shook her head no.  Well, it was very spicy.  In Chengdu, they add Schezuan oil to everything.

Most of our meals, with the guide, were family style meals.  She would order many meals and they would place them on a lazy Susan.  We would pick a little of everything.  One time I turned to her and asked what the dish was.  It turned out to be Sweet and Sour Pork.  It was not made like they make it at most restaurants in America.

Another meal I tried, had peanut and other things.  In addition to the nuts, there were peppers.  I would get them mixed up while I was chewing and have to reach for the soda or tea.

7-11 in China have steamed buns instead of hot dogs on rollers.  They were a cheap eat that was worth it.  Kayla found an affection for sushi at 7-11.  When we returned home, she continued to eat it.  She did not like Wasabi.  She even got mad at us when we accidentally got chicken instead of fish.

If you ever travel to China, eat the food.  You will see what it is supposed to taste like.

Pictures: Don't forget to take plenty

For any one who is adopting, I have a word of advice.  Take lots of pictures.  For most of you, this may be the only adtion you do.  If you are like us, you may have other oppurtunities.

The first adoption, we took about 300 or so pictures.  When I looked at them, I realized we had lots of our daughter, but nothing of her province or of China.  The second time, I swore to take more pictures.   I think we took over 1000 pictures.  I tried to take pictures of everthing.  Finally, on the last adoption, it was around 2000 pictures.

If you are using a digital camera, you can always delete pictures you don't want or if they turned out bad.  If you don't take them, you will wish you had and missed your oppurtunity.  Not only that, but as your child grows, they can look over the pictures to see the area they came from.

Deja Vu!

When you adopt from China the agencies like to put you up in 4 star hotels.  One our second adoption, the hotel was some distance from the airport.  Our first adoption, the hotel was right around the corner to the airport.  When you adopt from Beijing, you have to stay two weeks and then a week in Guangzhou.  

We arrived at the hotel and gathered our things.  They passed out our room keys and everyone went to drop off their belongings.  Our room was on the 7 or 8 floor.  On first inspection, it was nice.  The only problem was that is was a little warm.  We did not know if that was the way air  worked in China or the thermostat needed to be turned down.  We adjusted it.  

That night, it did not get any better.   We even called the front desk.  They came up and made an adjustment.   We even opened the windows.  Beijing in September is not cool.  We slept a restless sleep that night.  

The next day we said something to our guide.  She went to the front desk and said something.  They offered to move us to another room.  First we tried it out.  As soon as we stepped in, we knew the air was broken.  We took the room.  It was a relief.  

Fast forward to adoption #3.  We were back.  They put us up in the same hotel.  When they gave us our room assignment, it sounded familiar.  We got to our room and went in.  It was warm, but it was also in February.  It was cold outside.  We made an adjustment and it did not get any cooler.  We called the front desk and they came up to make an adjustment.  I finally decided to open the windows.  They had checked us into the same room.  They air was still not working.  

Suffice it to say, but we did not stay long.  We complained and they decided to move us again.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Skin Showing: Ways to meet the Locals in your province

With a title like that, you'd think you'd have to exercise parental guidance.  We discovered that when you adopt a baby/toddler in China, you must bundle up your child.  Of course, both times we did, it was cold.  The reason is this, well meaning people will come up to you and start saying things in Mandarin, while they are pulling down pant legs and arms.

You will discover that when you get your child on Gotcha day that they are bundled up like the child from Christmas Story.  Michelle was ready to pop.  My guess would be if you adopt a baby/toddler, keep them bundled or wrap them in a blanket.  The people mean well, but they will let you know if skin is showing.  I can only wonder how they are during the summer.

 It was worse for Michelle.  She had chubby cheeks.  When people saw that, they also wanted to pinch her cheeks.  She would just stare at them.

Great Wall of China February 2011

Here we go again.  The third time is the charm, or so they say.  This time, I did not tackle the same stairs.  I decided to go to the opposite side of the wall.  I found it to be strenuous, but  easier to deal will.  Plus, I got to walk on straight stretches of the wall.  I also discovered, that the section was only a portion.  It was just a big circle.  The stairs seemed a little steeper on this stretch and I had the same fears of falling. 

Angie and Kayla stayed at the base while I went exploring.  They were drinking hot chocolate, due to the cold.  It warmed up as I walked up and down the stairs.